The Air Force is studying options for integrating certain combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) equipment in the new Sikorsky [UTX] HH-60M replacement helicopters it is buying, according to sources and documents.
The study looks at potential solutions for putting CSAR systems onto the new HH-60Ms the Air Force is procuring under the Operation Loss Replacement (OLR) program in order to bring its fleet back up to 112 aircraft.
Due to combat losses, fewer than 100 of the older-model HH-60G model Pave Hawk choppers have survived. The legacy HH-60Gs are already equipped with standard CSAR capabilities, including an infrared sensor, personnel locater, refueling pod and several other systems needed for rescue missions.
The analysis for HH-60M CSAR integration was done by SESI, a Maryland-based firm. According to a source familiar with the study, it recommends three different aircraft configuration options: a “federated” system that uses a “smart multifunction display” that would require a new instrument panel; a Sikorsky-integrated system that would increase the mission system’s central processing unit capability; and a new multifunction displays augmented by commercial off-the-shelf equipment.
A final version of the report is to be released at the end of the month.
Boeing [BA] and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS) said last month that they have responded to a request for information (RFI) on a new CSAR fleet released in February by the Defense Department. Boeing has sent information about its CH-47 Chinook and the V-22 Osprey with its partner Bell Helicopter, a subsidiary of Textron, Inc. [TXT]. And EADS North America has confirmed that the European conglomerate has pitched both its NH90 medium sized, twin-engine military helicopter and its EC 725 Super Cougar, a long-range tactical transport chopper (Defense Daily, July 30).
Earlier last month, Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Sikorsky announced a teaming agreement for the competition (Defense Daily, July 16). The companies responded to the RFI with information about the UH-60M Black Hawk.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year canceled the CSAR-X fleet replacement program and asked the Joint Staff to reexamine the requirement for a new platform. The Air Force earlier this year revived plans to purchase a new rescue helicopter, with its efforts now focused on procuring a far less costly platform than initially expected.
The Pentagon’s current plan calls for a contract award in 2012. The Air Force wants eight new helicopters ready to deploy by late 2015.
A rescue variant of the Chinook was chosen by the Air Force for the CSAR-X contract award in 2006, but the Government Accountability Office found fault with the service’s evaluation methodology. Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky had also bid for that contract separately, Lockheed Martin in partnership at the time with AgustaWestland, a division of Italy’s Finmeccanica.